Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Against Teaching Holocaust Denial in Schools

Benzion Chinn recently attempted to portray a disagreement we were having over the email some weeks ago. I'm afraid I wasn't careful enough in our discussion due to the fact that while we were having it, I had an emergency injection of Hectic into my life. I had to let the conversation drop due to some personal problems. I'll better iterate my position on the matter we were discussing here:
I'm not "for" or "against" the existence of public schools. Public schools exist, I deal with that. Don't like it, go be an activist, hatzlacha. Maybe if I had the money and time to do more research on the American political ideologies, I'd end up agreeing with Benzion and end up fighting to shut down the public school system. Benzion somehow sees that pragmatism as an "excuse [for] a fundamentally unjust system." I fail to understand where he gets that idea from. Anyways, during our conversation, he ended up dismissing the ideological issue of whether public schools should be shut down or not as a "side issue." In this blog post, he tells you how his pragmatic system would work:
If government is going to decide that education is an arena worthy of its interest then the government must be prevented from putting a meaningful definition on the term. The government can give money for "education" and it will be left to parents and school boards to decide what "education" means and spend the money accordingly. If they decide that science education means intelligent design or even creationism that should be their right. To be clear, white supremacist parents should also be left to decide that holocaust denial is a form of history and use government money to teach that. Under such circumstances, giving over a meaningful education is likely to be a problem...It is the price that every supporter of freedom agrees to pay; believing in freedom means that allowing people to pursue their own misguided and destructive beliefs, no matter how horrific the consequences, is better than employing the slightest bit of coercion.
Now, see, I see this as a violation of the separation of church and state. Benzion disagrees:
To justify the teaching of evolution, its supporters need to resort to an arbitrary distinction between religion and other opinions, with one being given special protections and allowed to be forced upon children as fact. Not only that, but the government is deemed capable of deciding what counts as science and what is a religion. This is sophistry, in which facts are simply those things one agrees with and religion is that which one opposes. Thus the very concept of freedom of thought is rendered meaningless.

It sounds to me like in Benzion's world, schools will teach that Jesus is the true savior. After all, you may see that as religion, but others will see it as legitimate history.

But see, and this is important, others are wrong. The legal system can accommodate definitions of what religion is; we know this because it calls for some good ol' fashioned separation of church and state.

Moreover, where does Benzion get off defining liberty? Benzion isn't too clear, actually, if we're defining how children should be educated via school boards or via parents. If we're defining liberty through parents' rights, seems my children don't have a right to what my school board calls as "education." I'm a parent and I want my child to work for my sweatshop, well, that's my God-given right. If we're defining it through what the school boards want, seems to me that you're oppressing the children of parents in the minority by forcing dogmas on them. You might give the parents the right to split off from their local school, but how is the government going to give all these schools equal amounts of money? The government would be forced to make only tiny payments and therefore parents wouldn't be able to split off from the oppressive local schools...thus depriving their children of a right to an education.

1 comment:

  1. Having a central body of education is very dangerous to a free society. Because there is no way of knowing of how they can misrepresent information for their own sake. When the Nazis sought to instill nationalism in their children they did it with mandatory education in public school.

    Private school can suffer from the problem of teaching wrong information. That definitely happens all the time with religious schools. However, this problem is not at all avoided when private schools are eliminated and replaced by public schools. Just consider the misrepresentation of history found by the Texas board.

    The ultimate goal is to move towards a market-based education system. Education is not a right. It is a service that needs to be bought and sold just like anything else.

    I do admit that entirely aboloshing the public education system will do a lot of immediate damage to people so I support a transitional abolishment of public education. I think that the teachers legal union must be ended and vouchers introduced into public schools making them more competative. This is a step towards a market-based education system that should be the final goal.

    Because of this anything can be taught in school. This includes Nazism, white nationalism, and Holocaust denial. There is no way to prevent these kinds of evils from happening.